Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

How To Engage Young Readers


It’s been said you can’t motivate others

Helping Kids Learn To Read

Image courtesy of Horton Web Design ~ http://www.HortonGroup.com

unless they want to take your cue and motivate themselves.

There’s an article in The Washington Post that speaks to rousing kids’ self-motivation to readSeven ways schools kill the love of reading in kids — and 4 principles to help restore it.

A few quotes:

“Autonomy-supportive teachers seek a student’s initiative   … whereas controlling teachers seek a student’s compliance.”

“What a teacher can do – all a teacher can do – is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with:  to make sense of oneself and the world, to become increasingly competent at tasks that are regarded as consequential, to connect with (and express oneself to) other people.”

And, here are 7 ways the article says teachers kill a student’s motivation to read (Do, please, read the whole article for some surprising explanations of these motivation-killers):

1.  Quantify their reading assignments.

2.  Make them write reports.

3.  Isolate them.

4.  Focus on skills.

5.  Offer them incentives.

6.  Prepare them for tests.

7.  Restrict their choices.

Then, the article lays out 4 principles for helping kids motivate themselves:

1.  Supporting their autonomy isn’t just about having them pick this over that.

2.  Autonomy can be supported — and choices can be made – collectively.

3.  It’s not all or nothing.

4.  See above.  “The half-dozen suggestions for killing interest in reading in the first part of this essay don’t become irrelevant just because students are given more authority to direct their learning, individually and collectively.”

I encourage anyone with young children to go read the full article…

I also encourage adults to go read it—those who might have problems with reading as much as they deeply wish they could…

One final quote from the article:

“But if we’re serious about helping students to fall in love with literature, to get a kick out of making words fall together in just the right order, then we have to be attentive to what makes these things more, and less, likely to happen.  It may take us awhile, but ultimately our classrooms should turn the usual default setting on its head so the motto becomes:  Let the students decide except when there’s a good reason why we have to decide for them.”
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